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Storm drains blamed for polluted coasts

DETERIORATION OF bathing water quality around Britain's coastline was this week blamed on the continued use of outdated combined storm drains.

According to the Marine Conservation Society, which compiled the Readers' Digest Good Beach Guide published this week, the drop in standards reflected the increase in rainfall which prompted more frequent use of combined sewer overflows.

The guide confirms the trend of deteriorating water quality first highlighted by the Environment Agency's own bathing water quality report at the end of last year.

Although the MCS uses stricter criteria than the Agency in assessing the safety of bathing water, both agree that standards have not improved. The MCS recorded an 8% drop in its recommended beaches - only 125 of the 755 sampled reached the standard required to be recommended as safe.

The Agency found that although the number of beaches complying with EC Bathing Water Directive standards was increasing, more beaches were being monitored and the percentage passing actually fell.

Storm drains were singled out by the MCS as the main problem. They come into operation after heavy rain when the sewage treatment works cannot cope with the extra flow, discharging untreated effluent directly into rivers and estuaries. There are an estimated 25,000 of these around the UK, which are used on average 10 times a year.

The Agency intends to address this problem, particularly looking at seawater pollution caused by adjacent rivers and estuaries.

No beaches in the north west are recommended for bathing by the Good Beach Guide, despite 34 being sampled. This failure was also noted by the Agency, which said it was disappointed that schemes implemented by North West Water had not delivered the expected improvements.

Helena Russell

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